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The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York has charged a city employee and her husband with money laundering in connection with the theft of $2.5 million from the city’s fund for providing legal counsel to indigent criminal defendants and family court litigants. Raimma Tagiev, a mayoral office assistant in the Assigned Counsel Plan Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator’s Office, allegedly issued more than 400 city checks totaling $2.5 million. The 17 payees who received those checks were all fictitious people who supposedly provided legal and other services in family court matters. The checks were actually sent to mail drops and picked up by Tagiev’s husband, Yan Blinder. “The defendants are charged with a scheme that deprived New York City of sorely needed funds for the indigent,” said Eastern District U.S. Attorney Roslynn B. Mauskoff in a statement. “The impact of their crime is particularly acute during a period of difficult budgetary constraints.” Tagiev, 28, and Blinder, 43, were arrested Wednesday, denied bail and incarcerated. If convicted, they face up to 20 years in prison. Tagiev’s job responsibilities at the assigned counsel plan included entering records of payments from the plan into the city’s financial management system. According to the criminal complaint, she began issuing the fraudulent checks in February 2000 and continued until last week, with one three-month break while taking maternity leave between May and July of this year. By that time, the couple was already under surveillance by the Federal Construction Fraud Task Force, established by the Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s Office in 1999 to investigate the establishment of “cash hoards” from illegal activities. The task force includes agents from the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Labor Department, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York City Department of Investigation, among other agencies. In May, task force agents searched the computer system of the Assigned Counsel Plan Office and reviewed files for 14 of the 17 fictitious payees, finding that Tagiev had created payment records in each of the 14 files. Agents later installed a surveillance camera in the office and also tailed Blinder as he collected the checks from different commercial mailbox locations. The pair allegedly used the money to buy a home and expensive jewelry, and for a fair amount of casino gambling. The complaint states that records of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement show Blinder had wagered more than $200,000 since 2000. According to the complaint, their Marlboro, N.J., home was purchased in 2001 for $450,000 and carries a $310,000 mortgage. “It’s like the house from ‘The Sopranos,’” said Rose Gill Hearn, the commissioner of the Department of Investigation. “It was very lavishly furnished.” Hearn said a search warrant executed at the house Wednesday revealed tens of thousands of dollars in cash and perhaps $100,000 in jewelry, as well as a list of the fictitious payees under the mattress of the baby’s crib. All the ill-gotten gains would be subject to civil forfeiture proceedings, said Hearn, and the city would hopefully retrieve a large portion of the stolen funds. She also said others stealing from the city in its period of fiscal crisis would be caught soon. “Other people who have been stealing money are probably already on our radar screen,” she said.

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